A novel written in 1926 and published in 1930 by Philip Wylie, not to be confused with [[{{Film/Gladiator}} the 2000 movie of the same name]]. Not great literature, but truly genre-making. The story of Hugo Danner, whose professor father experimented on him as a fetus, so that he developed a reasonable degree of [[NighInvulnerability Invulnerability]] and SuperStrength. The plot is mainly concerned with Danner dealing with his singular condition as he attempts to find a useful place in society, which turns out to be harder than you'd think.

He suffers the guilt of killing another player on the field when he plays football and drops out of college. He gets a job in a bank, but finds he has to save a man who will suffocate inside a safe by ripping the safe open, leading his employers to attempt to find out how he managed it through (ineffectual) torture and ultimately lose his job. He has another job as a manual laborer, but loses that because he's making the other workers look bad. He finds some use for his abilities in UsefulNotes/WorldWarI, and is about to attempt to end the war single-handed when it ends of its own accord. He is ultimately appalled by the whole experience. Eventually, while helping on an expedition amongst the Mayan ruins, he takes the expedition leader into his confidence. They discuss the possibility of creating more people like himself, to be used to improve the world. Deeply concerned with the possibility, he stands on a mountain in a storm and asks God to judge. [[BoltOfDivineRetribution God provides his answer]].

This work is mainly significant because it may be the first modern depiction of a superhero, and seems to have been a great influence on the story of Franchise/{{Superman}} and Franchise/DocSavage. It also provides part of the backstory of "Iron" Munro from ''[[ComicBook/AllStarSquadron The Young All-Stars]]''.
!!Contains examples of:
* AccidentalMurder: When Danner gets into a fight with one of his teammates on the college football team, he winds up snapping his neck with only a few punches.
* DisposableSuperheroMaker: [[UrExample One of the earliest examples]], since the serum seems to only affect embryos, and Abednego never published his results.
* DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength
* [[spoiler: DownerEnding]]
* GlobalIgnorance: Apparently most Frenchmen in the early 20th century did not know that Colorado exists, as the captain of the Foreign Legion accepts Danner's lie that his super strength is because of his place of origin. [[note]]Of course, not only did most Europeans pay no attention to the USA before the war, but Colorado only gained statehood in 1876.[[/note]]
* GuineaPigFamily: Abednego Danner injects his pregnant wife with his SuperSerum, explaining Hugo's abilities.
* HopeSpot: Every single time it looks like something good will happen to Danner, circumstances conspire to leave him as bad off as when he started.
* HumansAreBastards: Which is why Danner can't change society. And he's NotSoAboveItAll.
* ItGetsEasier: As a child, when Danner thinks he killed a bully, he freaks out, even though the kid lives. Then, when he [[spoiler:accidentally kills a teammate]] in college, he has a HeroicBSOD and quits school, even though nobody blames him for it. Then he enlists in the French Foreign Legion and starts killing the enemy left and right, without really caring. [[ZigzaggingTrope As the war goes on and his friends die, he ineffectually tries to cut the war short, and becomes a pacifist after it's over.]]
* KafkaKomedy: Danner getting fired from a steel mill for being too ''[[TallPoppySyndrome good]]'' at his job, and then immediately getting arrested on suspicion of being a safecracker (and not given the opportunity to defend himself) after saving a coworker's life, really can't be considered anything else.
* LamarckWasRight: PlayedWith, in that Danner was already conceived at the time that his mother was subjected to the experiment, however, his father later states that any children of Hugo's would not inherit his SuperStrength unless they too were given the serum.
* MaddenIntoMisanthropy: Once Skorvsky proves that even his movement cares more about money and martyrdom than people's lives, Danner tells him to GetOut, and contemplates derailing a train to punish those PunyEarthlings for being venal and selfish, [[spoiler:but decides against it]]. He doesn't regain his purpose until he goes on the Mayan expedition. [[spoiler:And we all know how that turns out...]]
* NoGoodDeedGoesUnpunished: Instead of being thanked for saving a fellow employee from suffocating in a bank vault, Danner is immediately suspected for planning to rob the bank with his super strength at a later date, and is promptly fired and interrogated.
* NoPlansNoPrototypeNoBackup: {{Justified}}, in that Abednego ''did'' keep notes of his process and results, but was too afraid to publish them for fear of what would happen. Later, [[spoiler:they are destroyed by the lightning strike that kills Hugo]].
* OnlyInItForTheMoney: Danner's beliefs that Skorvsky is this is what makes him leave the reformers.
* PoliceBrutality: The NYPD is under the control of {{Corrupt Corporate Executive}}s, and tries to get a confession out of Danner through torture.
* ProtoSuperhero
* RedemptionEqualsDeath: Ralph Shayne only respects his son Tom after the latter is killed in action in UsefulNotes/WorldWarI.
* ReedRichardsIsUseless: Even in [[UnbuiltTrope the very first superhero story]]. Danner is only able to save a handful of lives, from fires and the like. Once he enters the war, he can only kill soldiers in a berserk rage-- when he finally acquires an airplane and can fly straight to the Kaiser to force an end to the conflict, it's too late because the Armistice just happened. His attempts to intimidate amoral lobbyists fail because HumansAreBastards. Professor Hardin suggests using the super serum to create a whole race of idealists like Danner, but this never happens because of [[spoiler:Danner's swift death]]. He can't even save his girlfriend from poverty-- she leaves him because [[IWantMyBelovedToBeHappy she thinks that she would hold his college education back]] otherwise.
* SecretIdentity: Danner gets a job as a circus strongman under the pseudonym of "Hogarth Smith" in order to keep his promise to his parents that his strength will be kept a secret. However, [[UnbuiltTrope his college friends see through it immediately]].
* ShaggyDogStory: Danner meets his end by [[spoiler:getting struck by lightning]] after expressing doubts on whether he should enact Hardin's plan, ultimately without ever making any impact on society. Only a handful of people will ever know of his deeds.
* ShootingSuperman
* SignificantBirthDate: Danner was born on Christmas. The [[MessianicArchetype analogy]] should be obvious.
* TheGayNineties: Extrapolating from the First World War breaking out a year after Danner quits college in his sophomore year suggests that he was born on Christmas Day, 1893.
* TheseLookLikeJobsForTheSuperman: Deconstructed because Hugo Danner attempts to find a MundaneUtility to his [[NighInvulnerability Invulnerability]] and SuperStrength doomed his life:
** As a child, he tries to be a BullyHunter and almost kills TheBully, scaring all the other kids who consider him a EnfantTerrible when he really is a NiceGuy.
** As a young man, he tries to go to college as a ScholarshipStudent, but he DoesNotKnowHisOwnStrength and commits an AccidentalMurder. He has to drop out college.
** Trapped in World War I, he becomes a SuperSoldier killing as many German soldiers as he can for the French Foreign Legion. He decides to become a useful SuperSoldier by InstantWinCondition: hijacking a plane, infiltrating Germany and killing the German Emperor and his generals to force a DecapitatedArmy. Unfortunately, RealityEnsues and the war ends on his own accord.
** Later he tries to be a bank teller, but he has to rip the safe open to save the life of a man. His boss considers him a peril and tries to torture him into the truth. Hugo has [[NighInvulnerability Invulnerability]] and he cannot convince his boss of his sincerity, so his boss only fires him.
** Later he does a good job in an Steel Mill and as a farm laborer, [[TallPoppySyndrome but he makes the other workers look bad]], so he has to quit.
** When he tries to be an AdventurerArchaeologist, he compares the Egyptians and Mayans and tries to explain his own life and realizes that he is TheWoobie. That motivates him to RageAgainstTheHeavens and gets a BoltOfDivineRetribution.
* UnbuiltTrope: For Superman specifically, and super-powered superheroes in general.
** {{Deconstruction}}: What actually having SuperStrength would be like, and the extent to which superheroes could affect the trajectory of history, if at all.
* WithGreatPower